We are living and operating in extraordinary times. Even before it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization1, the current COVID-19 crisis had effected so much change from the way we live and interact with people, to how we conduct global business and work on a daily basis. Entire cities and countries have been in lockdown, non-essential travel has been halted, and employers have imposed split teams or remote working practices on an unprecedented scale. It would hardly be an exaggeration to state that this time of crisis has led to the biggest remote working experiment the world has ever seen!
Businesses have been severely impacted in several ways with massive repercussions to bottom-line and revenue; supply chains are disrupted, and retailers and hospitality establishments forced to either scale down opening hours or completely pull their shutters down for the time being. In this downturn however, digital services are surging in demand, including e-commerce, online learning platforms, and content streaming services. In workplaces, the shift in work practices are also putting online collaboration tools and video conferencing services to heavy use, testing the strengths and limits of their enterprise networks.
It goes without saying that no matter how big or small an organization is, emergency preparedness and disaster recovery plans are vital to ensure business continuity and should be subject to regular review.
As part of this review, it is necessary to identify your most important operations and processes to understand what procedures should be in place to meet productivity challenges and ensure business can run as normal, even in times of extreme disruption like we face now, and this would encompass functions from across the organization.
Remote working is much more accepted in modern digital businesses and that is a massive win for agility and productivity. However, there is still much to be considered in terms of its efficiency, particularly in the supporting technology ecosystem. In simpler terms, it is not enough to just have shiny new tools if the craftspeople are not empowered with the required skills and your network infrastructure cannot support the applications you have invested in.
On the other hand, IT infrastructure in several APAC markets is still in varying stages of development. With many enterprises expanding operations in the region, supporting a rising number of applications and delivering better customer experiences are high priorities. Recently, we are seeing about a 35% growth on the CenturyLink Internet backbone over the last month and a significant capacity increase in voice and collaboration services as governments continue to regulate their citizens to work from home. It is no surprise that with the increase in remote working, there has also been a surge in usage of VPNs6 as private sector organizations, government agencies and schools, among many others, scramble for connectivity.
Digital businesses also need to continue acquiring, analyzing and acting upon data to reach their customers, once more putting their enterprise networks to the test. Despite early hesitation in adoption7, software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN) have been rising in prominence for digital enterprises as a remedy for managing network challenges and this itself was a hugely positive step towards more robust BCP.
From an IT perspective, I would like to highlight the following essential practices for business continuity:
1 World Health Organization, WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 11 March 2020, Mar 11, 2020.
2 Jeff Levin-Schearz and Deana Allen, 8 Questions Employers Should Ask About Coronavirus, Harvard Business Review, Mar. 15, 2020.
3 Alex Scroxton, COVID-19: NSSC issues secure remote working guidance, ComputerWeekly.com, Mar. 17, 2020.
4 Brian Lufkin, Coronavirus: How to work from home, the right way, BBC Worklife, Mar. 13, 2020.
5 Jackie Wiles, With Coronavirus in Mind, Is Your Organization Ready for Remote Work?, Smarter with Gartner, Mar 3. 2020.
6 Niall McCarthy, VPN Surges During COVID-19 Crisis, Forbes, Mar. 17, 2020.
7 Destiny Bertucci, The 3 Myths Slowing Adoption of SD-WAN, Network Computing, May 9, 2019.
8 Cali Williams Yost, What’s Your Company’s Emergency Remote-Work Plan?, Harvard Business Review, Feb. 28, 2020.
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